Sonoma County moves to give rural residents greater voice in local government

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday paved the way for creation of more regional citizens groups designed to give certain unincorporated areas a greater voice in local government and decision making.

The panels are meant to allow more neighborhood-level input and advice on such issues as roads and land-use planning, and result in recommendations to county supervisors, who are the only elected local representatives for many rural areas.

“This is really participatory democracy at its base level,” said Supervisor James Gore, pointing to his experience last year establishing a council for the Mark West area north of Santa Rosa.

While the community does not wish to incorporate, residents there do want to play a larger role in decisions shaping their community, Gore said.

Advisory councils will also help the county better manage small unincorporated communities, where supervisors become “the de facto mayor,” he said.

Supervisors Susan Gorin and Lynda Hopkins indicated they want to establish new councils along the Russian River, the Sonoma Coast and in The Springs area of Sonoma Valley. Some of the same areas — along the river and in Sonoma Valley — were once represented by appointed redevelopment committees, but those entities were dissolved in 2012 when the state eliminated redevelopment agencies.

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